The manufactured housing industry is launching a drive to kill a bill that’d let Iowa cities pass ordinances that require storm shelters at mobile home parks. Lori Morrissey is with Story County Management, and says she says people get afraid during storms. "Being an emergency manager and when I used to work with the sheriff’s department from residents saying, ‘Where do I go? There’s a tornado warning right now and I have no where to go,’" Morrissey says.
Morrissey says a mobile home just isn’t a safe place to be in a tornado. Of the 3,000 people in Story County who live in a mobile home, Morrissey estimates a "small, small fraction" live near a decent storm shelter. "A lot of ’em just end up, you know, in the bathtub of their manufactured home," she says.
Joe Kelly, a lobbyist for the manufactured housing industry, says legislators are "picking" on the owners of mobile home parks. "Just to pick on us and say ‘This industry, you know, should have it. We’re not worried about nursing homes without basements. We’re not worried about houses on (concrete) slabs. We’re not worried about apartments without basements. We’re not worried about workplaces that are inadequate,’" Kelly says. "It’s a big problem, but I just don’t think we’re the totality of it."
Kelly says he doesn’t want to leave the impression death by tornado is anything but tragic. However, Kelly says there aren’t enough storm-related deaths in Iowa to justify the expense of building storm shelters for mobile home parks.
"You look at the risk/reward situation," Kelly says. "Charles City, 1968. I don’t know how many people died in tornadoes there. (Charles City) went almost 40 years without (another tornado-related) death my research shows." Under current Iowa law, county officials are allowed to require tornado shelters. Safety advocates want that authority extended to city officials.